The Obama staff shuffle kicks into high gear

Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 11, 2011; 8:48 PM

Busy days ahead for movers in President Obama's West Wing. Wednesday is move-in day for the new White House chief of staff, Bill Daley, and his chief of staff, David Lane, who's been running Bono's One Campaign and before that was a senior official at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

During Bill Clinton's administration he was executive director of the National Economic Council and chief of staff to - you guessed it - Bill Daley, when Daley ran the Commerce Department.

Sean Sweeney, who was chief of staff to former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, moves down to what's called the ward room, a windowless spot in the West Wing basement, where he's hanging with Chicago-bound Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina - whom Daley wants to stay on for a bit to advise him.

Meanwhile, a number of senior White House aides appear to be still in the mix for the two deputy-chief-of-staff slots, including Alyssa Mastromonaco, who makes the trains run on time as scheduling and advance chief; Nancy Ann DeParle, who runs the White House Office of Health Reform; and Stephanie Cutter, assistant to the president for special projects. (Cutter has also been talked about as a possible replacement for spokesman Robert Gibbs. If you see her with her arm in a cast, it probably means she's taken that job.)

Also in the running are environment and climate boss Carol Browner and legislative affairs director Phil Schiliro.

The problem for Obama, we're told, is that he likes and wants to reward these folks - and make sure they stick around - but there are only two deputy jobs. Adding a third is a distinct possibility, but that might require a somewhat inelegant designation of one of them to be the principal deputy COS, or PDCOS.

When all else fails there is the traditional title-creep ploy, giving out super-splendiforous-special titles - very special counsel or senior personal adviser - to keep everyone happy.

Meanwhile, in other moves at the White House, National Security Council spokesman Michael A. Hammer will move later this month to become deputy to State Department Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs P.J. Crowley.

Hammer, a career Foreign Service officer, was called back from an embassy posting in Bolivia to take the NSC job at the beginning of the Obama administration. The best bet for his NSC replacement is Thomas F. Vietor, known to one and all as Tommy, who's now assistant press secretary.

Speaking of movement, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has called all ambassadors and charges d'affaires from around the world to Washington at the end of the month for a big meeting to talk about the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) to review policy and justify the budget.

At the Rahm Store

Speaking of Emanuel, you could be the first on your block with stuff from the newly opened "Chicago for Rahm" online store, selling campaign paraphernalia to boost his mayorial bid.

There are "100% pre-shrunk cotton" T-shirts that say "Rahm for Mayor," only $16.95, or the usual bumper stickers, buttons and coffee mugs. But hurry. The first round of voting is Feb. 22. If no one gets 50 percent, the runoff will be two months later.

South of the Border

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Tuesday cut short his week-long trip to Latin America - the first congressional jaunt of the year - so he could fly back in time to attend the memorial service Wednesday in Tucson. He and Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) at least managed to hit most of the countries on the schedule - Colombia, Brazil and Chile - before heading up to Panama. They are skipping a chunk of the Panama trip, and McCain's office says he's rescheduling the canceled Mexico stops.

Frosty exit for Wolfowitz

On Saturday, counterinsurgency guru and Center for a New American Security President John Nagl held his annual post-Christmas party at his home in Alexandria, attended by dozens of Iraq war veterans, Obama administration officials and journalists.

Also in attendance was Iraq war architect and former deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz, whose jacket somehow vanished from the coat room.

In all likelihood, it was a simple case of mistaken identity.

But as Wolfowitz, now at the American Enterprise Institute, headed home without his coat on a frigid Washington night - temps around 26 degrees with gusting winds up to nearly 30 mph - conspiracy theorists couldn't help but wonder whether foul play was involved. The big question as the party was winding down: Did a disgruntled Iraq veteran walk off with the jacket as a last measure of revenge, or was it the work of a left-leaning Obama-ite?

For once, no one seemed to blame the journalists.

That's why it's a secret!

One of the favorite ploys used by government bureaucrats to thwart freedom-of-information requests (aside from just stalling) is the old B5 dodge. That refers to a section of the Freedom of Information Act that exempts from disclosure any information that the agency deems might be a sensitive part of the internal "deliberative processes" of government, such as inter- or intra-agency communications and such.

The National Security Archive recently won an appeal from the State Department over a B5 classification of something written by a department official on a proposed House resolution. The January 2000 resolution, sponsored by Reps. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Bill McCollum (R-Fla.), expressed "the sense of the House of Representatives that Pakistan should be designated a state sponsor of terrorism."

A State Department official had written something on the proposed resolution that the department decided was exempt from disclosure. The Archive went through the department's appeals process and two years later won the right to see the hidden writing on the resolution.

It said: "What a bunch of crap!!"

Ah, the old deliberative process ain't what it used to be.

Research editor Alice Crites contributed to this column.

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